Lee Clow, the visionary creative who touched the hearts of consumers and revitalized brands with iconic advertising campaigns, is retiring today, Valentine’s Day.
The Global Director of Media Arts at worldwide advertising agency TBWA, and founder and Chairman of TBWA\Media Arts Lab, will move into an advisory role as Chairman Emeritus of the agency he founded in 2006 to serve Apple. The 50-year creative veteran was an original partner at Chiat\Day, the Los Angeles creative agency that was eventually acquired by TBWA, part of Omnicom.
Over the years Clow has come up with some of Adland’s most iconic taglines, such as: “Think Different (Here’s to the Crazy Ones).” for Apple: “Keeps Going and Going.” for Energizer Batteries and “Impossible Is Nothing.” for Adidas.
In his "Love Note To Advertising," released today Clow wrote, “The years I spent doing this thing called ‘advertising’ have been fun: challenging, rewarding, maddening—sometimes painful—but mostly, joyful. And I wouldn’t trade a day of it.”
In addition to his Chairman Emeritus role at the agency, Clow is working on a personal film project that tells the story behind some of the most famous and culture-altering advertising in history, culled from his 50 years at Chiat\Day—the people, the work—and retelling how they did it.
He will also remain involved in the agency’s social-impact group, For Good, based in Los Angeles, where he will advise on select projects for clients who share his commitment to the planet and the people (and animals) who inhabit it.
“Don’t do the right thing,” he challenged the agency, the advertising world, and clients, on TBWA\Chiat\Day’s 50th anniversary in 2018. “Do the brave thing. Do the thing that doesn’t just defy the status quo, but reshapes it, forever.”
Clow announced his retirement to the agency, alumni and close friends in October 2018, at a party on Jay Chiat’s birthday, part of the year-long “Chiat\Day 50” celebration. His decision to formally share the news with the industry on Valentine’s Day is a nod to Chiat’s unconventional custom of sending Valentine’s Day cards to staff, colleagues and clients, instead of the expected, “Season’s Greetings,” typically dispatched during December holidays.
“Lee will always be our creative conscience,” said Troy Ruhanen, President and CEO, TBWA\Worldwide. “He has given so much to our company and to our industry. His challenge to us, to do the brave thing, to Disrupt, will continue to be our North Star. We all love you, Lee.”
“Lee is one of the most talented and visionary leaders in our industry,” said Chairman and CEO of Omnicom Group, John Wren. “Over the past five decades, he has built a foundation of creative excellence for the TBWA network that has distinguished the agency among its peers. On behalf of the Omnicom family, I would like to thank Lee for his invaluable leadership and significant contributions to our group.”
Tim Cook, CEO of Apple, added: “During his long partnership with Steve and Apple, Lee told powerful visual stories that elevated new technologies with the passion, creativity and ingenuity that define our own humanity. He helped Apple carry itself through times of challenge, and his work inspired audiences to look beyond the horizon as an exciting future came into view. Lee’s body of work over five decades hums with cleverness, warmth and enthusiasm—and there is no doubt that it will inspire and motivate generations of ‘Crazy Ones’ still to come.”
To celebrate his outstanding contributions to the creative community, the agency has established a scholarship at the College of the Arts—School of Art at Clow’s alma mater, California State University Long Beach (CSULB). Additionally, all proceeds from his film project will go into a college fund previously established in Clow’s and Chiat’s names at Art Center College of Design, which was created to assist low- and middle-income students with tuition fees and costs.
Also, TBWA agencies in Los Angeles will continue to honor Clow’s impact on the Southern California creative community by partnering with Turnaround Arts: California, a national, public-private partnership that leverages the arts to spark transformation in the state’s highest-need schools.